Improving equity in all parts of the supply chain has been a growing priority for consumers for many years resulting in certifications that help brands communicate exactly that. Besides the popular FairTrade certification there are also smaller organizations like the Fair For Life standard.
This article will explore how to receive the Fair for Life certification as well as the major differences to the FairTrade certification so you can decide if it’s a good fit for you and your business.
Before we dive into the details let’s look at the history of Fair for Life and why it was established. It’ll be important to know that we can trust the quality of the certification and, if you’re going to invest time and money, that it will be around and valuable for decades to come.
About the Fair for Life Standard
Fair for Life is a certification program for fair trade in agriculture, manufacturing and trade. It was created in 2006 by the Swiss Bio-Foundation in cooperation with the IMO Group. In 2014 it was taken over by the Ecocert Group in 2014 to meet a specific demand from organic farming stakeholders.
The Ecocert group developed two programs with common ground that each pursues slightly different goals that are not to be confused.
Fair for Life: is a product certification program for fair trade and responsible supply chains.
For Life: is a certification program meant for companies willing to demonstrate their corporate social responsibility.
As only the Fair for Life certification is a product certification and a partner of Amazon’s Climate Pledge Friendly program, the following article will focus on this certification.
Beyond the basic concept of fair pricing, the label encourages a supply chain business model that aims at the resilience of each link of the supply chain. Fair for Life certification is a tool that enables the valorization and protection of exemplary supply chains, where stakeholders have chosen to act responsibly by implementing good economic, social and environmental practices.
To qualify for using the Fair for Life label on your product it must contain at least 80% of certified ingredients. This is what the label looks like on a certified product from the organic chocolate label Theo Chocolate:
The basic principles of the Fair for Life program include:
- Commit to FAIRNESS by orienting the business model to fair practices based on a fair pricing policy and a respectful dialogue with its suppliers.
- Respect HUMAN RIGHTS and offer DECENT WORKING CONDITIONS to improve the living conditions and well-being of workers and their families.
- Respect the ENVIRONMENT, BIODIVERSITY and CLIMATE by taking responsibility for one’s environmental impacts and progressively implementing sustainable agricultural practices encouraging conversion to organic farming.
- Act for sustainable LOCAL DEVELOPMENT through collectively identifying challenges and creating development projects adapted to local contexts.
- Strengthen SOUND BUSINESS PARTNERSHIPS through a progressive approach with economic partnerships that improve the structure and durability of supply chains.
- Provide producers and workers with democratic representation and collective bargaining capacity to develop their economic opportunities.
- Enable INFORMED PURCHASE DECISIONS through transparent communication which guarantees consumers physical traceability of certified ingredients.
Bigger supply chain certifications like FairTrade include the same basic principles. The main difference is that Fair for Life offers the possibility of recognizing other schemes that can be complementary and thereby enable synergies and wider sourcing. With FairTrade all suppliers have to strictly follow the guidelines established by the organization and pay the not-so-small fees that might be inhibiting to smaller producers.
Today, Fair for Life brings together a community of more than 700 certified companies and organizations in over 70 countries. Their commitment in Fair for Life directly impacts 235,000 producers and workers and generates nearly $1 billion in certified products sales.
How the Fair For Life Certification Process Works in Detail
According to Fair for Life’s website the certification process seems fairly easy and straight forward and consists of 6 steps:
Fill in the application form and expect the following questions:
- Basic organization/ company information;
- Your certification background;
- Your type of activity, periods of activity, and position in the supply-chain;
- The products you wish to have certified; and
- Your operational management structure.
- Your eligibility to the programme is initially determined through questions, such as:
- The history, mission and commitment of your organization/company to social and community development;
- Expected focus and impact of Fair Trade on workers, their families and the communities.
2. Contractual Agreement
Your application form will be used to generate a quote based on a variety of factors. By signing the agreement to commit to complying with the Fair for Life scheme requirements and everything that is associated with it.
3. Initial Evaluation
- Opening Meeting: confirming the scope of the certification and audit; confirms the audit plan
- Documentary review with management: The management system will be reviewed, as well as documentary evidence of certain requirements (I.e. list of farmers, workers contracts, etc.)
- On-site visit and interviews: The auditor will take a tour of the facilities, accompanied by the responsible manager to assess certain requirements. Interviews with personnel and/or producers will be carried out without the presence of management.
- Closing meeting: The auditor will prepare his/her preliminary report on the Fair for Life or For Life requirements based on the observations during the audit. You will receive an initial audit report either during the closing meeting or after the audit. A final discussion with the managers will note any identified non-conformities. You must make a commitment during the closing meeting (or within 1 week after the audit) to undertake defined corrective actions in order to correct the non-conformities.
4. Corrective Measures
Once the audit is completed, you will receive an initial audit report either during the closing meeting or after the audit. According to the non-conformities, you must make a commitment during the closing meeting (or within 1 week after the audit) to undertake defined corrective actions in order to correct the non-conformities. Then, according to a certain timeframe, you must submit proof of implementation of the corrective actions for all non-conformities corresponding to certification requirements.
5. Certification Decision
The CB will verify the completeness of your file and issue a certification decision.
The certification decision is based on:
- The audit report, containing your proposed Corrective Action Plan,
- Proof of the corrective actions you implemented, and other related documents.
If you receive a negative decision you may re-apply.
6. Continuous Surveillance
After the initial evaluation and certification decision, the annual evaluations will be organized based on a 3-year cycle through surveillance and renewal evaluations.
The BWP Certification Framework Applied to the Fair For Life Certification
In this article we have outlined why it’s so important to put effort into selecting the right sustainability certification. With the Fair for Life certification your main challenge will be to identify and change your suppliers. This may be a costly and lengthy process that will directly influence your products’ quality.
Have a look at the BWP certification framework to help you see if Fair for Life’s certification is the right one for you.
Fees & Involvement
Certification costs vary depending on the size and complexity of your operation/ supply chain, which certification(s) you apply for, the location of your operation and of producers (the local costs and travel time), and whether or not you are already certified organic or have another certification. If you are already certified organic by Ecocert or IMO, it reduces the cost of the Fair for Life certification, as the audits can normally be combined.
Expect the sales price for FFL certified produce to be above the conventional market prices (+ 5 or +10%).
In addition to the sales price, the partner has to pay an additional ‘Fair Trade Fund’ which is either:
- 5% of the Producer Operation sales prices; or
- 10% of the Producer sales prices (e.g. paid to the individual producers within a Producer Operation).
The Fair Trade Fund, refers to the extra amount paid to the Producer operation in addition to the sales price for all Fair For Life products purchased. The use of the Fund is confined to collectively agreed-upon projects by the beneficiaries.
Depending on the maturity of your project, the state of your preparation and your proactivity to solve your deviations, it usually takes an average of 3 months between your first request and the issuance of your certificate.
Certification Popularity & Trend
Fair for Life is one of the smaller sustainability certifications on the market and with a significantly lower spend on marketing it is less known than its bigger competitors.
Currently, there are about 3000 FFL certified products on the shelves of mainstream retailers as well as specialized organic retailing networks, within the top 5 major markets for fair trade: USA, France, Germany, UK, and Netherlands.
As for Amazon the numbers of certified products are fairly low but equally distributed among different marketplaces:
- Amazon US = > 121 products
- Amazon DE = > 88 products
- Amazon UK = > 185 products
The Fair For Life certification is available for the following product types:
- Food products
- Cosmetic and beauty products
- Artisanal products
- Other products composed of natural ingredients such as detergents and home perfumes
Fair Trade certifications signal that your brand cares about where your ingredients come from, and the conditions all involved parties are working with. They are especially suited if you source ingredients from countries that are known for poorer working conditions.
A smaller certification organization usually fits smaller brands that like to do things differently and serve a niche market since that fits with the values of the certification organizations.
Target Audience Fit
Besides the geographical fit of Fair for Life’s certification for the main markets we have identified above, the type of audience is important as well. If you’re a smaller brand serving a niche market your audience might be willing to pay more attention to the details of your communication since their interest in the product is higher.
This gives you a chance to communicate why you chose a smaller certification organization.
The Fair For Life organization was founded in 2006 which brings the certification age to 15 years. They introduced their latest standard in 2017.
Fit to Current State of Product
If your current product does not source Fair for Life certified ingredients you have to undergo the process of changing your suppliers which might lead to changes in quality, reliability, prices, etc. Another approach is to help your suppliers receive the Fair for Life certification which might be easier and more affordable than for bigger sustainability certifications.
The Fair for Life certification as one of the smaller sustainability certifications is a great option for your brand to show you care about all actors of your supply chain while not having to stick to the strict regulations of a big organization.
In this article we have explored
- How the Fair for Life certification was created to meet the demand of a group of small organic farmers and is now a more inclusive alternative to its bigger competitors.
- That the certification process is very transparent and manageable regarding the effort on your side.
- That according to our BWP certification framework the Fair for Life certification is especially suited for brands that seek alternatives to bigger and more popular certifications and have an audience that appreciates that.
Hopefully this article brings you one step closer to choosing the right sustainability certification. If you have further questions about the Fair for Life certification, you can identify your local representative by sending them an email HERE.
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